It could be the start of a solution

Published December 4, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin


The  problem  of accumulating mountains of plastic  garbage around  the world  today is the result of years of unthinking human behavior.  In the beginning,  plastics were  hailed as new  material  for wrapping, packaging, retailing,and preserving  goods of all kinds – food, medicine, drinks,  common household goods.  They  replaced  paper, cloth, leather, wood, and  other  natural  materials. They were easily manufactured and the supply was inexhaustible.

Paper, wood, cloth, and other natural materials are such that they decay  and return  to the earth to become new plants  which, in turn,  become  food  for  animals. In time, the  animals too return to the earth, to become parts  of new plants and animals.

But  not plastics. This human invention  does not follow the natural order of decaying after certain periods of time. This makes  them  useful  for keeping food  and  drinks, medicine and other human needs for  long periods of time.  They are so good  at  this  that, according to scientific studies,  they can last  for  over  450 years.  Thus  the plastics created decades ago remain as they are to this day, undiminished in substance or shape. And they are turning into mountains of garbage on land and sea.

The world’s oceans are said to be filling up with plastics of all kinds – bottles and bottle caps, wrappers and bags,  plastic spoons  and forks, stirrers and straws, sachets  for selling medicine tablets,  cigarette stubs . And the Philippines is the world’s  No. 3  source of plastic garbage today, next to China and Indonesia.

The world’s foremost  users  of plastics to sell their products  —  mostly food and medicine – have awakened to  the  irresponsibillty  and have pledged  to stop  using plastics by a certain year . Restaurants  around the world have  stopped   the use of single-use plastics such as straws, knives, and forks.

Last  week, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte announced  the approval  of Ordinance 2876  banning the use of all kinds of disposable  plastics in the city’s restaurants and grocery stores. The city government has  decided  to do  its part to solve the plastics problem.  If all the other local governments in the country and  around  the world  and  all individuals and families similarly do their part,  the mountains of plastic garbage around  the world would stop rising.

Scientists could then take over and devise ways to break  down  the plastics already dumped  around the world.   And they could invent biodegradable plastics – looking like the same  kind  of  useful  wrappers and bags and knives and forks, but with a big difference – they would be like wood  and paper and leather  that would disintegrate in time and become part of the natural order of  things.

That may well  be  off  far into the future. We need more local governments like Quezon City,  more  food and medicine producers  and more consumers who will stop now —  not later – the purchase of consumer  goods of all kinds that use plastics.  If   this move gains support around the world,  that would  the start  of a solution to this hazard  of our times.